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Reading 9 "The Image" by Kenneth E. Boulding

Key Words:

1. Image


It is images, rather than knowledge (which implies validity and truth) which governs human behavior, according to Boulding. Images are comprised of sensory messages received by nature or in communication with other human beings. They are not factual, but arbitrary. The image is built up as a result of all unique past experiences of the possessor of the image.


2. Message

Messages are, according to Boulding, information as structured sensory experiences. The meaning of a message is the change which it produces in the image. A message received by the human senses may not affect one's image of the world at all. In fact, most messages "shoot straight through," so to speak. They go in one ear and out the other. Boulding speaks of the construction noise outside his window as he is writing this essay as examples of various messages that are not affecting his image of the world at all. Some messages, on the other hand, do in fact change one's image of the world. They occassionally add to one's image of the world; not refuting or drastically changing it. Others support our existing image of the world, making it more clear. Sometimes, messages refute or disprove our image of the world, changing it in a profound way. This happens infrequently, however.


Discussion Questions:


1. Boulding deductively makes the argument that since all human beings are exposed to roughly the same image of the world, each of us influenced by similar messages, then the value system of all individuals must be approximately the same. Is this argument accurate or are people actually possessing of very unique images of the same world?


2. It is asserted by Boulding that most sensory messages go in one ear and out the other, so to speak. Are many of these largely ignored sensory messages actually processed and taken in by design thinkers at a much greater level than non-design thinkers?